The convenience model: TOMRA

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, highlights competing Container deposit scheme models and Return and Earn’s success.

When the Tasmanian Government announced it would implement a container deposit scheme (CDS) by 2023, it became the seventh state or territory to do so, leaving Victoria as the single holdout.

The CDS waste collection model is similarly growing overseas, with widespread uptake in North America and Europe. While all CDSs share a common goal, there are multiple implementation models including return to retail, convenience kiosks and large-scale drop-off depots.

Markus Fraval, TOMRA Collections Strategy Director, says most European CDSs operate under a return to retail system. He says this is generally supported by government regulated extended producer responsibility legislation.

“Businesses that sell drink containers are obligated to take the container back in some way, and because it’s so easy, those markets typically achieve 90-per-cent-plus return rates,” he says.

“We commonly employ South Australian style models in Australia, whereby people are required to go out of their way, generally to an industrial area, to return their containers.”

According to Markus, depot models require significant time and organisational commitment from consumers and, as such, are often ineffective. He adds that in lieu of return-to-retail legislation, conveniently positioned reverse vending machine kiosks are a more effective model for Australia.

Markus says despite New South Wales not having the benefit of a return to retail network, the Return and Earn system was designed to be as similar to the European model as possible.

He says this was achieved by positioning reverse vending machine kiosks in shopping centres and supermarket carparks throughout
the state.

“Accessible kiosks allow consumers to participate in the scheme as part of their normal routines and daily habits,” Markus says.

“This provides incentives for positive consumer behavioural change that are not too extreme or inconvenient.”

TOMRA, in a joint venture partnership with Cleanaway, was appointed Return and Earn network operators by the New South Wales Government in 2017.

The role incorporates network design, establishing new drop-off facilities and maintaining the
state’s more than 600 existing collection points.

“We know from our experience in over 40 global deposit markets that the big drivers for successful return rates are deposit value or financial incentive, and the level of returning convenience,” Markus says.

He suggests TOMRA’s focus on convenience and access is the reason that in just under two years, 55 per cent of New South Wales residents have participated in the scheme and return rates have been high.

Since commencing on 1 December 2017, Return and Earn has collected more than two billion containers through a combination of TOMRA kiosks and more traditional depot collection points.

“The first billion containers were collected in the first 12 months of the program, with the next billion collected in the following seven months. This suggests the scheme is still accelerating,” Markus says.

“Return and Earn is now averaging well above four million containers per day.”

While reverse vending machine kiosks represent only half of the total collection points in New South Wales, Markus says approximately 80 per cent of all returns come through TOMRA reverse vending machines.

“It is critical for a successful CDS to have a network of small footprint collection points capable of high capacity collections,” he says.

“It’s also important to facilitate an integrated supply chain that spans collections, logistics and processing.”

Markus says while collection quantity is key, CDSs need to operate as efficiently as possible to keep price impacts at a minimum.

“As network operators, TOMRA Cleanaway has processed well over 100,000 tonnes of material for commodity trading in domestic and international markets,” Markus says.

“For instance, we ship bales of aluminium cans overseas for smelting and remanufacturing into sheet metal, which can then be used to produce new beverage containers.”

Additionally, Markus says roughly half the plastic sold by TOMRA Cleanaway is used for domestic bottle-to-bottle manufacturing, with the remaining half exported oversees to make bottles, textiles and plastic films.

TOMRA’s optical sorting and reverse vending machine technology is available to all operators across the CDS spectrum.

“Our technology scans bottles from 360 degrees, taking one gigabyte of images per second,” Markus says.

“The speed and ease of use of our machines allow TOMRA to collect more than 40 billion containers through reverse vending machines around the world each year.”

According to a recent state government survey, over 85 per cent of New South Wales residents support Return and Earn.

“There are different models out there, and while I think it’s useful for people to understand the success of CDSs more broadly, there is something to be said for the New South Wales model,” Markus says.

“It is undoubtedly the most convenient scheme in Australia.”

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Return and Earn consumer research released

According to recent Return and Earn consumer research, eight out of 10 residents are satisfied with the New South Wales container deposit scheme (CDS), and over two-thirds believe it contributes to long-term recycling outcomes for the state.

TOMRA Cleanaway CEO James Dorney applauded the New South Wales community for their role in the scheme’s success.

“The success of the scheme is a testament to the incredible efforts of the NSW community who in July, returned and earned more than two billion containers in just 19 months since the scheme began,” Mr Dorney said.

“The survey showed that more than half of NSW residents are using the scheme, which in turn demonstrates how easy access to drop-off points and a well-planned network of collections and recovery infrastructure are critical to the success of any recycling system.”

According to the survey, 55 per cent of the New South Wales population have used the scheme, up from 48 per cent in December 2018.

Additionally, the survey showed that 78 per cent believe the scheme will benefit the environment.

Cleanaway Solid Waste General Manager David Clancy said the scheme had far exceeded expectations, reaching one billion containers in a year and two billion in 19 months.

Mr Clancy estimates that Return and Earn is likely to hit three billion containers before the end of 2019, accounting for almost half of all beverage containers sold in the state.

“Container deposit or refund schemes incentivise customers to return their drink containers to collection points in exchange for a refund,” Mr Clancy said.

“They are a perfect example of delivering on the triple bottom line of sustainability – there’s less litter in the environment, refunds can be used to benefit local community groups, associations and charities, and finally recycled containers become a part of the circular economy, extending the use of existing materials while reducing reliance on natural resources.”

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TOMRA Sorting’s near-infrared technology

TOMRA Sorting leverages near-infrared technology across a range of specialised products to increase revenues and reduce costs and the impact on the environment.

The near-infrared technology is ideal for packaging, municipal solid waste, thermoplastics, paper, commercial and industrial and construction and demolition waste, organic waste, refuse-derived fuel, bulky waste, wood and thermoplastics.

In particular the introduction of the laser object detection (LOD) now allows for sorting materials with no specific infrared signals.

Laser object detection sensors use a 3D laser system to physically detect items the spectrometer can’t detect. This now allows considerably improved removal of contaminants from various product streams.

Its multifunctional Autosort has been upgraded to include a user-friendly touchscreen to allow users to access various sorting programs.

Available through Australian supplier Cemac technologies, the company also offers select TOMRA technology to suit each application.

TOMRA Sorting’s Autosort flake combines colour detection with enhanced material and metal objects simultaneously to offer better purity and yield with the one machine.

Its Autosort fines was built to sort small fractions across multiple applications with a wider mechanical setup.

TOMRA Sorting’s Finder is able to target metal objects using patented z-tect technology which leverages artificial intelligence to detect and ignore disturbing noise and lead to a stable purity and high yield.

TOMRA and CEMAC technologies partner

Sophisticated sensor technologies are helping Australian material recovery facilities improve their sorting capacities beyond what is possible with manual sorting. 

Read moreTOMRA and CEMAC technologies partner

NSW litter reduced by a third with help from Return and Earn

Litter in New South Wales has dropped by 37 per cent since 2013, with drink container litter being reduced by a third since the introduction of the Return and Earn scheme, according to new figures.

A report released from Keep Australia Beautiful has also found takeaway container litter has been reduced by 19 per cent from 2016 to 2017.

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Print and advertising litter has also been reduced by 35 percent from 2016 to 2017.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said Return and Earn’s impact can been seen by looking at the scheme coordinator’s figures for the three months from March to May 2018, which show it collected 67 per cent of all eligible containers supplied into NSW in that period.

“This shows the immediate positive impact the container deposit scheme is having on reducing drink container litter, which is the largest proportion of all litter volume in NSW,” Ms Upton said.

“Overall, there has been a 33 per cent drop in Return and Earn eligible drink containers in the litter stream since November 2017 – the month before the scheme was introduced on 1 December.

“On average three million containers a day are being collected at return points. More than 560 million containers have been processed by Return and Earn so far and as more collection points are rolled out, these results can only increase and the amount of litter will decrease,” she said.

Ms Upton said the NSW Government’s commitment of $30 million to 2021 to reduce litter and littering behaviour through the Waste Less recycle More initiative is having the right effect.

“Such a huge drop shows the NSW Government’s range of anti-litter initiatives are working,” she said.

“I encourage the NSW community to continue returning their eligible drink containers and in their other efforts to reduce litter in our communities.”

Return and Earn sees half a billion containers returned

More than half a billion containers have been returned to Return and Earn reverse vending machines in NSW, eight months after the scheme launched.

The container deposit scheme aims to improve recycling rates and reduce the volume of litter in the state by 40 per cent by 2020.

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Each eligible container is worth 10 cents when returned to a reverse vending machine or depot.

Drink containers litter currently makes up 44 per cent of the volume of all litter throughout NSW and costs more than $162 million to manage, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) was the first educational institution to install a reverse vending machine as part of the scheme.

UNSW Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability Will Syddall said that while this initiative helps to reduce littering and improve recycling rates, it is just one step in improving the way we create and manage waste.

“In the waste hierarchy, reducing and reusing resources is better than recycling them. We encourage the community to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups so that they can avoid disposable cups and bottles altogether,” Mr Syddall said.

“We also recognise that we have more work to do to reduce the amount of single-use plastic and other consumables used on our campuses.”

According to the World Bank, half of the plastic ever manufactured was made in the last 15 years.

ACOR call for $150M into regional recycling

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) is urging the federal government to grow regional Australia’s recycling industry with a one-off investment of $150 million.

The investment would go towards better sorting, increased reprocessing, community education and government procurement of recycled content product.

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ACOR Chief Executive Officer Peter Shmigel said recycling has a good base in regional Australia, which can be grown for more jobs and economic value in country areas.

“It’s one of the readily accessible ways to diversify regional economies and make them more resilient against droughts and global market forces,” he said.

“Our industry already has a good place in the bush including lube oil recycling, battery recycling, tyre recycling, industrial plastics recycling and consumer packaging recycling in country areas.”

Mr Shmigel said an independent report from MRA Consulting showed investment in local recycling could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can use waste plastics and glass that can’t go back into bottles as part of asphalt in government-funded road projects,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Roads are the biggest asset in country areas and they can be recycled content rather than virgin materials at competitive cost and quality – if governments positively procure for that,” he said.

Mr Shmigel said using recycled content materials in the Snowy 2.0 scheme alone would massively contribute to more jobs and deliver on the community’s recycling expectations.

ACOR members with operations in regional areas include Southern Oil Refinery, Kurrajong Recycling, Re-Group, Visy, Envirostream, Tomra, SIMS Metal Management, ResourceCo, O-I and Downer Group.

NSW consumers return and earn with TOMRA app

More than 100,000 people have downloaded TOMRA’s recycling app linked with the NSW Return and Earn scheme.

The free app, called myTOMRA, shows the status with Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) in NSW and has partnered with digital payment provider PayPal.

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Users can scan their personal barcode at the RVM and claim money from returned containers electronically.

The app shows whether a RVM is open, almost full, temporarily unavailable, or in sleep mode during out of hours periods. It also includes a map which can direct users to the nearest RVM.

The Return and Earn scheme was implemented in NSW on 1 December and has seen more than 310 million containers returned since it launched. It aims to reduce the amount of litter across NSW by 40 per cent by 2020.

Consumers are able to claim a 10-cent refund when they return an eligible drink container to a collection point in NSW. Most 150 millilitre to three-litre drink containers made from plastic, glass, steel, liquid paperboard and aluminium are returnable.

TOMRA Cleanaway is the network operator for the scheme, with TOMRA providing the RVM technology and Cleanaway delivering the logistics and sorting for collected containers.

TOMRA partners with SKM Recycling

Melbourne-based company SKM Recycling has selected TOMRA Sorting Recycling to supply its 3D laser technology for three new sorting facilities.

The 40 AUTOSORT units will be used across the three plants to process more than 350,000 tonnes of kerbside collected material per annum.

The primary focus of the new SKM Recycling plants will be to process paper, plastics, metals and glass and sort them into high quality products. The plants are expected to be operational in the beginning of 2018.

SKM’s Laverton plant aims to become the most automated recyclables processing plant on the continent by integrating multiple steps of TOMRA Sorting technology into the sorting of paper and other recyclables.

The new sorting technology is also working to extract a greater percentage of recyclable product from the residential recycling stream, facilitate the development of new recyclable grades to meet the demands of a changing market and reduce waste to landfill.

“Our confidence in their (TOMRA) technical knowledge and support is unwavering and is backed by TOMRA’s guarantee to perform. We are proud to be developing the most advanced materials recovery facilities in Australia,” said Robert Italiano, Business Manager of SKM.

Tom Jansen, Sales Manager at TOMRA Sorting Recycling, added that winning such a large contract means SKM Recycling have placed a lot of trust in the company and its newest technology.

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